Guantánamo Judge Sentences Marine General to 21 Days for Contempt

Chief Military Commissions Defense Counsel, USMC Brig. Gen. John Baker, Held in Contempt for Allowing Civilian Defense Lawyers to Leave Case for Ethical Reasons

November 1, 2017 6:45 pm

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NEW YORK — The military judge presiding over the Guantánamo military commissions prosecution for the 2000 USS Cole attack confined the chief military defense attorney to his quarters for three weeks for disobeying orders, according to The Miami Herald.

The military judge, Air Force Col. Vance Spath, held Marine Brig. Gen. John Baker in contempt for refusing to rescind his decision permitting the three non-military defense attorneys in the death penalty case against Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri to quit for ethical reasons related to secret government eavesdropping on their communications. Baker was also held in contempt for refusing to testify about his decision.

The military judge said that Baker did not have the authority to make the decision and rejected Baker’s effort to explain that the military court has no jurisdiction over him.

“The contempt finding and confinement of General Baker is unlawful and an outrage,” said Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project. “General Baker was continuing the honorable military defense counsel tradition of trying to act ethically, despite being part of a system rigged against the rule of law. The military judge’s unprecedented contempt ruling against General Baker shows just how difficult that is. The military judge’s decision needs to be reversed and General Baker released immediately.”

The military judge has ordered the three civilian attorneys — Rick Kammen, Rosa Eliades, and Mary Spears — to participate in a hearing on Friday, setting the stage for another legal showdown.

Also today, in Washington, other attorneys for al-Nashiri asked a federal district court to stop the prosecution from going forward without an attorney specially qualified for capital cases, which is required by the rules of the Guantánamo military commissions themselves. The attorneys made two filings in court today, and a hearing is scheduled for tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

“The whole prosecution of Mr. al-Nashiri has again gone off the rails, this time because of ethical violations caused by the government itself,” Shamsi added.

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